Yesterday early afternoon I received a phone call to notify me of the death of a dear friend. There is always an interesting surge of emotions with the death of a person, especially one you feel such a kinship with. Somehow though, I couldn’t help but feel a total sense of relief and release.
Terry McCombs was born in Rupert, Idaho and grew up on the farm outside of Rupert. He graduated from Minico in probably its most notable time. He went to school when Minico was known nationally for its band program. The high school was still under 10 years old and Southern Idaho was in the Post-war boom. Some of his mentors both in choir and band were to forever influence his life. There was something about the farm soil and the passion of music that set Terry on his future.
I met Terry for the first time in 1997. I had been asked to accompany a friend, Elena McBride, on the piano for a vocal number she was doing. She wanted me to meet her vocal coach, Terry McCombs. There was a McComb’s in my grade who I knew and one just younger who was in choir and who I knew more through friends. These both turned out to be Terry’s niece’s. Our meeting took place in Terry’s childhood home where his mother still lived with Terry’s brother’s family. We sat there at the piano and I played perhaps a few chords when Terry asked me if I sang. I confessed that I had no singing talent whatsoever and had never really tried. He took over at the piano bench and then began to have me try a few exercises. He attempted for hours to get beyond my modesty (my attempt to cover a poor voice). After several hours, Elena’s lesson turned into an reworking of my thinking concerning singing. For the most part of which he was very successful at rewiring. Afterward I remember Elena being upset that her lesson was all about a lesson for me.
Terry had me commit to come to a lesson with him in a studio apartment he was using within about a mile from his home. It was a little bedroom in the loft and a little living room below with a couch and piano. I seem to remember a small kitchen and bathroom in the entry level. We descended into the little living room about a week later and he sat on the couch and I sat in the chair. Terry always had it a bit on the cool side but it definitely was cozy. He then spent about an hour teaching me the doctrine of singing. I remember him offering a prayer that seemed to turn my heart to complete mush. I was so overwhelmed at such a powerful experience. Coming from an inactive LDS home, I had no real clue what it was I was experiencing. I had prayed before, and even seen prayers answered, but never had I experienced what I did that day. Heaven literally descended and engulfed us that day.
After teaching me on the doctrines of the restoration of all things and of singing he then went on to teach me what he knew and how he knew it. He bore powerful testimony of what it was he was teaching that day. I remember openly weeping for the joy that engulfed my heart and how I recognized my life changing before my very eyes. My very nature was changing in that room. We then went to the piano and he began to unravel to me some of my physical nature. I admit I understood more the nature of my throat, singing, and of life then than at any point in my life, probably even since. It was interesting how he always framed everything with a view for eternity and the building of Zion.
What came from my mouth, from my very heart, was so beautiful we both wept. Terry sang a song for me that even today haunts me with how beautiful it was. He then sang a song from Rigoletto that was simply amazing. He sat at the piano and I sang a song that day which I have not been able to sing since. It haunts me how beautifully I sang and it kills me I have not been able to sing like that since. There was such an outpouring of the Spirit. I do not know if I can ever share what happened that day. The gifts of the Spirit were present and angels ministered to us.
We met many, many times again in that little elevator to the heavens. Sadly, I don’t know what happened after a couple of months. Whether it was my pride or influences in his life, but it began to falter. We started meeting again in his parents house and doing lessons there which were interrupted and never of much value. We then started meeting in his home, the old out garage converted into a studio/living room connected to a trailer. It was never quite the same. I really don’t know why to this day.
My Senior year at Minico brought the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I don’t remember how many lessons before the play I had with Terry but I had such a zeal with singing now I auditioned for the play. I had been singing in the choir now for a little while. I totally bombed the audition but somehow I was still put in as one of the brother’s. Honestly, I did so poorly I didn’t know if they would let me even be a dancer. That is how badly I auditioned vocally. I could never translate how I could sing in lessons to doing it in front of other people. I was terrible when anyone else listened. Even the State Solo Competition I sang for and did so poorly I didn’t even finish the song. The choir helped me some. Good thing it was an open class.
Terry helped a number of us quite a bit with our singing for that play. I improved considerably under Terry but never could find the voice I had in our lessons on stage. It drove me completely crazy to know how heavenly it could be and it just never translated outside the studio. Our lessons continued and I learned a great deal. We continued to cover the history of music and the mechanics of the voice. All of which I still feel like I have a pretty good handle since I was learning them from a spiritual perspective.
Minico ended and my whole life had now become engulfed in music. I had my musical training from band all the way from 6th grade. I could read and understood basics of music. I had taught myself a half dozen new instruments in high school and I wrapped up high school putting on finishing touches to play the piano in the mission and learning the master the voice.
I went to Utah State knowing how much I loved music but I would not be pursuing a degree in anything related to it. It was completely my hobby. I went home at least every couple of weeks. Due to situations at home I would either stay with my Grandma or I would stay with Terry. We often spent all Friday night in a lesson. It was something about the two of us that somehow we connected and heaven was with us. I don’t know if he had these experiences with others. I know he had in the past but I sensed it wasn’t happening with others at the time. He often expressed his frustration with me at how he wished others wanted to learn just for the sake of learning rather than trying to do it for publicity, pride, or money. He knew I had nothing to pay him and I wasn’t about to ask my parents for more money since they were helping me through school. I think that is one thing that changed later. When his situation got a bit more desperate and he needed money I had nothing to offer and he was required to spend his time teaching paying students.
The time came for the mission and I was prepared. My own research and experience on my own time had gained me many experiences with the Spirit. I had come to gain a personal testimony of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Prophets and Apostles, Priesthood, and a bunch more. I think one thing that was unique is that Terry had opened me up to a very different side of religion. It wasn’t just the knowledge of it or doctrines, but it was the personal experiences with it. Through college our lessons moved from the vocal aspects to mostly discussing religion and sharing experiences. I had obtained many new experiences with heaven and Terry had a wealth of them to share as well. I think many thought I was a bit crazy with how literally I was experiencing my associations with the other side of the veil but Terry always understood. I remember my Grandma would get so excited when I told her about some of the experiences. She would tell me of some of her own. Mom I instantly recognized was out to kill or denounce anything of which I was experiencing. She quickly would tell me how it was a cult and I was being brainwashed. When I would confront her about how literally some of my experiences were she would chalk it up to hallucinating or something else. Terry and Grandma were two who understood.
It was such an interesting road. My roommates at college I don’t think knew how to take what was happening. Some were very understanding at the beginning, others finally warmed to it. By the end of the school year at Utah State we had all experienced some things together. The turmoil and emotions of the year were difficult with my parents divorcing and the changing face in so many relations. The roommates weathered all those and were very understanding. But the thing I remember most is the little spiritual times I had with each of them and interestingly have bonded each of us together since. All four of them we continue to feel very closely united even despite distance and time.
Terry offered to have someone provide the musical number for the mission farewell. He did and I was very grateful. Surprisingly, he offered some money to help pay for the mission that makes me blush that he would give it to me. He never wrote a letter, I don’t think I ever wrote him a letter during those two years, but we had communication. I remember one night I had a dream of a phone call to Terry while I served in Eccles. It was after my Grandmother had passed away. We chatted about a few things and I told him of my experiences with Grandma after she passed away. He told me of some of the experiences he had with his own father after he passed away. It helped confirm what I was experiencing. In the dream he told me to get a copy of Parley P Pratt’s Autobiography and to read it. After I returned home from the mission and had been home a few weeks, Terry called me. What I had totally passed off as a powerfully spiritual dream came very close to home when he asked if I enjoyed Brother Pratt’s book. That is just the way Terry was.
Terry asked me to come to visit him in Branson, Missouri after I returned from the mission. I went to visit him in a heartbeat. Terry wanted to start lessons again and asked me to move to Branson. I went back home and made arrangements and headed out for Missouri. It turned out to be a wonderful experience. I thoroughly loved my time while I was there. He mentioned that I was there for two purposes: To learn to love in a way unselfishly and to gain some great experience to carry me throughout my life. He proved to be very prophetic on both accounts. I learned to love in several ways which hurt terribly. I definitely learned some lessons there. I learned some valuable lessons in management, the corporate world, missionary work outside the mission, and family history.
Terry and I both lived under the same roof with several other families the first year I was there. It turned to be a very wonderful experience. I had three families I could call my own in the same house. Each of them taught me some very important lessons. Without going into details, it proved to be a time I still find myself thankful for in prayer.
I remember one night I had a dream where I had a dream in answer to a prayer. I woke up afterwards and immediately went to knock on Terry’s door. At 3:00 AM in the morning I recounted to him my experience and we both wept for joy. He shared with me an experience where one of his prayers had been answered by dream just nights before. This was the type of connection I had with Terry.
Interestingly, it is how merciful heaven is in dealing with us. Terry definitely had a personality. Some characteristics I will openly admit drove me crazy. His little antics sometimes were detestable at how he treated others. Even me a couple of times. At other times I could not help but feel sorry for him with the struggles he had on so many fronts. He had a temper. He had his bias nature. He had all his imperfections. He was not a physically beautiful man by any real means. However, his heart was something different. I sat in on many lessons and it was interesting how completely different some of them were. Some of them it seemed he was trying to impress them so he could gain their trust. Some it seemed he had to debase himself to get the heart. Others it appeared he had to bully them. Every lesson was very different. I never understood if he was catering to the personality of each or what it was. My lessons were very direct, even almost unspoken at times. It was not uncommon for a look to communicate everything.
When it came time for my leaving Branson, we both knew. I only saw Terry a couple of times after that. In fact, I think it was only twice after. Once was in Utah and the last time was a year ago as Amanda and I drove on our way to Virginia. We stopped and spent several hours with him.
I spoke with him on the phone for over an hour just a month or so ago and he was in good spirits. It was with a bit of shock I received the phone call telling me he had passed the night before. Somehow though, it seems like it would be the way Terry would do it though. My first reaction was that little scoundrel did this on purpose. But then I sensed a peace about the whole thing and it was meant to be.
In looking back, Terry always introduced me to people as the one with a pure soul. I don’t know if it is true or not, but I always wanted to be a little better with that title. Terry always had people who either loved or hated him. People somehow switched those sides often with him. I never understood why. But something about the man endeared people and also brought on some of the strongest criticism. But in the end he usually weathered it well.
I haven’t had any experiences with Terry spiritually for a couple of years now. Perhaps we just grew apart. But now that he has passed, I anticipate something small, at least for a temporary good bye. If not, this is my little pushing off the ship of a good friend. I will see you later mate. I love your soul.
In the first e-mails, I am more building off of common ground. He pretty much told me his whole desire is to be a billionaire by the time he is 40. He gave me as the reason for doing so is that he could have independence and security. Building off of that theme, I gave the following paragraph. I completely agree with your statements that that is not our whole purpose. I hope I defined that more clearly in some of the other e-mails that came later, if not in the same one.
“I do not laugh at your hope of retiring early. I believe it is a noble thing to have prepared so you can spend your live doing something more productive than the pursuit of money. I completely agree with you on this point. I hope to be financially independent so I can turn my focus onto other things, more important things. I see nothing wrong with this desire. I am sorry if other people find it foolish.”
I certainly think you should do your job with full faithfulness and not just with the end to get money. You should enjoy your job and find its meaning and opportunity for you. I completely agree that it is more than just supporting the family.
“There are a couple of thoughts I will throw at you. I am not to elude that you are caught in these thought patterns, but a caution in case you may have forgotten. You referenced financial freedom and security. I am not personally aware of any promises in the gospel that we will be given security or a large degree of freedom. Agency, yes; the ability to act, definitely; but beware of the thought process that at some point you will have reached a point to where you are excluded from pain, sorrow, or suffering. “
You quoted D&C 70 in relation to this comment. The Lord there promises us blessings and great blessings. But I do not read that these promises are necessarily for temporal blessings and temporal security. Remember, this is one of the reasons why the Saints were so terribly upset in Kirtland and in Jackson. The Kirtland anti-Banking Society was established and many people fully thought the Lord was going to make them rich. After all, they were in the process of gathering and of building Zion (literally) and that led to their downfall. In Jackson the Saints were sure that they would be protected temporally because of some of these commandments. Well, we know what happened there as well.
To me, when the Lord promises comfort, security, blessings, and freedom, these are all first and foremost spiritually and in the conscious. I do believe they lead to the physical. That is one of the messages I get from the New Testament is that Saints will be able to call anyplace, even the pits of hell, home and make it a Zion. Wherever the Saints are, there cannot be hell. Remember the Lectures of Faith, those who have a certain knowledge can take spoiling of the goods and even the taking of their lives with joy and a certain knowledge that they have a future and know their place in eternity. If I remember right, I don’t have the book yet, but the quote of idolatry by President Kimball includes the comforts of family, cars, and houses.
I guess is what I am saying, Saints were had in Kirtland and Missouri even though they were in hell. They had comfort and freedom and independence and security despite what they were going through physically. Many counted it a blessing to come across the plains, even the quote from the old man in the Martin Handcart Company, that it was the place they came to know God and would not trade it for anything.
It seems to me a twist of the scriptures to believe we are promised physical security and freedom.
Your quotes from the Book of Mormon go along with what I have already talked about. Free forever, certainly is more than this mortal probation (2 Ne 2:26). The Lord promised the Israelites freedom in Egypt, but they still had to sit there for 400 years. (I wonder how many lost their faith because they were not given their freedom in their lifetimes?) Out of darkness into the light, out of captivity to freedom (2 Ne 3:5) seems to be speaking the same. Under no other head are you made free (Mosiah 5:8) I view death and a resurrection as a freedom from the fallen world too. Moroni’s inspiration to be freed from bondage (Alma 43:48) is still very much on the Lord’s timetable. Wandering in the wilderness for 40 years is certainly freedom considered under what they had left with Pharaoh, but still it was very taxing, and they had no real comforts or even security. They had serpents and all sorts else to worry about. Hearing the Lord and following him will make us free (D&C 38:22) is very true, but what about all those Saints who wasted away with the same promise in eastern Germany and Soviet provinces. Hundreds never saw freedom in their life according to what you are arguing here, but certainly did in the spiritual way. Even Brigham Young has quotes where the strangling of the US government was diminishing the Saints freedoms. His views were of the freedom of polygamy, and (don’t know if I would argue for it) we still don’t have the complete freedom of our religion in this country.
As for the quote about the Constitution and our liberty to make us free. That is one of the big things Joseph Smith taught. Our constitution gave us the freedom of thought, to act as we please (despite its tightening under Brigham) and freedom of conscience. You know this.
If we are righteous, the promise is that we shall have our needs met. Even that our cup will run over and with tithing that we cannot receive them all. But that certainly never applied to riches as far as I have ever seen. My bank account certainly could receive more and I could too. So it doesn’t have to do with money. But in spiritual blessings, from which the physical manifests itself, I certainly believe we can be therewith content with what the Lord has allotted us. Even if that is a prison cell in the freezing of winter in 1837 called Liberty. Isn’t that what the Lord told Joseph and later. Receive ALL things with thankfulness and you shall be made glorious (again, not necessarily physically).
“I know you are not saving up money to become rich. It is your desire to be able to be more free to do things which are of more worth with your time to your family and for others. I certainly think that is a worthwhile pursuit. Just be careful not to be driven too much by money rather than your worthwhile pursuits. “
This was another building off the common ground concept. Start at common ground, build off of it, and then you can help them see where you vary and then they are left with the choice. Isn’t this much of the Socratic method. But you have to start somewhere to where they can agree with you.
This was one of the main reasons why he wanted to gain riches. I do think it is a noble thing for you to be able to do more with your family and time for the benefit of others. I admit, no matter how much I like my job, I have to do it a certain amount and detract away from time that could be used with family, teaching, or even in service. Honestly, you can love your job and want to spend all your time there, but in the end, whether you love your job or not is not going to get you into heavens quadrants. Your family, your service and stewardship will count much more.
There are a score of great blessings that do come from work. I don’t doubt that. But I am sure you could learn many of those same ethics and work from other meaningful service too. Our jobs are a required part of life. Someone has to clean the sewers, someone has to move the trash, someone has to do crime scene investigating, someone has to be the mortician. I certainly hope those people don’t hate their jobs. I do believe, in the vein above, that you have to have that inside conviction, freedom, and security and the outside will change. Hell will in fact become heaven. If you hate your job, first you should probably change your heart and mind, then look again at the job and consider if a change needs to be made.
I completely agree with the Luke 3:14, 1 Tim 6:8, Heb 13:5 (what would that say if I didn’t agree?) that one should be content with wages, have godliness and contentment, and to avoid covetousness. I am sorry if I led you to believe I supported these things.
Anyhow, I hope as you read later of the forwards, that I corrected or explained my position more fully.
This is a great little study for both of us. We must be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. We must think these things through, even we must plan financially but far too many people let it consume their lives. I really liked your line, “…I can see how it will take over if you are not careful. But now I know, I need to be wise, but not worry, be prepared, but not obsessed!”
Thanks again, I enjoy our little banters.
12 at the time. I guess he liked to golf once and a while at the course down in the canyon. (Sad, I don’t even remember the name of it. (Perhaps I am getting older….)
Who else died this year? I read a few of Milton Friedman’s books. I still sing to myself the music of Malcolm Arnold, especially River Kwai. I remember joking about what it must be like to be Robert C Baker, but now I would feel bad joking of chicken nuggets. Buck Owens who I saw in Branson passed away. We can’t forget political leaders like President Ford, Senator Stafford, or Congressman Sonny Montgomery. Ed Bradley who I liked to watch. 60 Minutes just won’t be the same anymore without Bradley and Wallace. Who were some not so notable, or infamous, Mr. Lay, Jeff Lundgren, Saddam. It has been a year for deaths! Oh, I about forgot Steve Irwin. It seemed every little kid in England talked of Steve.
A couple of family members have passed away. Ebertha Lutz of my Van Leeuwen line. Dean Sharp just passed away last week. His funeral is on Thursday up in Pasco, Washington. That doesn’t leave many of the Sharp family around either. I know Grandpa is struggling with his death. Dad, Jan, and Grandpa are going up to the funeral. I hope when my time comes, it will go as well. He wasn’t feeling well, and went to the hospital. His oxygen was low, so they put him on oxygen and he wanted to go home. He was resting and Lois heard him make a noise and saw his oxygen was off. She went over and he was gone. Quick, painless, and comfortable.
I only visited with Dean two weeks ago. I called him to ask him some family history questions about his parents and recollections of Mary Ann Stoker, aka Lillian Musgrave. He told me characteristics of his parents, Edward Sharp and Lillie East. He always had a cool little laugh when he finished speaking. Don’t know if it was a nervous laugh, something he picked up, but it always made me feel relaxed. He never
knew his grandmother, I had to get that information elsewhere. Good bye Dean.
I received an e-mail from a Terry McHugh in South Carolina. He was searching information on the Stoker line. I filled him on information I
had, and gleaned quite a bit from him. It was good to focus some more on the Stoker line. I still have yet to figure out why my Mary Ann
Stoker (married Sharp) went by Lily (Lillian) Musgrave for a spell.
I called Grandpa and he shared a few memories with me. He said she was fairly tall, I am not sure what that means. Grandpa is not necessarily tall. He used to walk past her house every day on the way to school. He would stop in on his way home when she was alive. It is the same house my Aunt Caroline lives in now.
She would have him put the hooks in the holes for her shoe laces. She also had him pull the strings on her girdle for her. He used to ask why
she needed the thing; after all she was so skinny. She would just sigh and ask him to pull them just a little tighter. It sounded like it was sweet memories. She had a horn for hearing. She went deafer over the years. Grandpa would ask why she needed that horn and she would say it was because he wasn’t speaking loud enough. It was interesting that June Streeter had memories of Lily, but didn’t know who she was. It wasn’t until a few months back talking with her daughter that I cleared that up in her mind.
Life changed considerably for Amanda and me this year. I again made a move across the country. One thing is for sure, get married and the
physical baggage multiplies! You would think that my trunk full of possessions would only double. Some reason or another, women are not
confined to a Spartan life. But add a marriage to it, and the making of a home, and things grow exponentially. There are ways I would like to
go more Spartan, but Amanda won’t have any of that. Probably a good thing.
Dad had his operation and seems to be back to normal. Indeed, he is better than he has been for the last five years. I am glad he has made
such a recovery, even improvement. Jan had her operation on her back. For some reason I cannot recall if that was earlier this year or not.
Yes, I think it was, pretty sure it was. She is doing much better. Her progress has not been as quick as Dad’s but she is doing better.
Overall it has been a good year. Even the few dreams I have had have all been good. There is one that repeated some over the year. Have yet no idea what it could possibly mean. I am back living at Kasota Road. But I have to go to the dentist. I go, and it is Garrison Keillor who
is the dentist. We end up chatting about a few things. By the time the appointment is done, he has split a tooth in half, and pulled it. Having removed a tooth, I am concerned and discuss my issues with him. He takes and makes me a new tooth and screws it back into the top of my mouth. I am shocked that I can notice no difference from the old to the new tooth. I am impressed there is no swelling and no pain. He doesn’t even use pain killers. It is his reasoning that makes things work so well despite my little idiosyncrasies. Perhaps it is just that I need
to reason and talk through more things in life. I almost laugh in the mornings when I realize I am dreaming of going to the dentist, spending
the conversation with Keillor, and then arise to find life is great. Perhaps it is just a happy dream. Don’t know why I find it so ironic that the dentist and Keillor make me happy, but I won’t complain. (Now people will think I am more off my rocker than ever!)
Well, I think I will sign off. I look forward to what 2007 has to bring. I am sure it will have many surprises and interesting things to mention. It will be the first year in a long time that I am planning, for the most part, of staying in the same state. Since graduation I have hopped between states every year.